“The new health care law has already started helping us,” Roach said. “Overturning it would send us back to the dark ages.”
But in Waco, Texas, the owner of an air-conditioning installation company, whose young employees tend to opt not to sign up for health plans, said he fears that the cost of providing adequate coverage under the law will increase his overhead and drive up the end-cost of his products.
“We’ll adjust our business model for that, and that drives whether or not we hire,” said Capstone Mechanical owner Rick Tullis.
This week, the National Federation of Independent Business, along with 26 states, will argue that the health reform law’s provision mandating that everyone obtain health insurance — whether through an employer or a state-based pool — is unconstitutional, and thus the entire law must be overturned.
While the group’s legal argument is against the individual mandate, NFIB senior executive counsel Beth Milito said she also thinks its requirement that businesses with more than 50 employees offer health insurance is fundamentally flawed.
“Our members just want the government to stay out of their business,” she said.
But Tullis and Roach are actually both members of the NFIB. As their organization prepares to dispute the legal aspects of health care reform, their differing opinions illustrate the fact that there’s little consensus among small businesses as to the law’s merits, and business owners’ projections as to whether the law will be a net gain or loss depend almost entirely on their individual circumstances.
Taking a head count
One of the main determinants of the health law’s impacts for a business is the number of employees.
Beginning in 2010, small businesses with fewer than 25 employees who make less than $50,000 on average began receiving a tax credit of up to 35 percent of premium expenses, calculated on a sliding scale based on the number of employees.
Companies with between 25 and 50 full-time employees don’t qualify for a tax credit, but they also won’t be required to provide health insurance under the law. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 96 percent of all American companies have fewer than 50 employees.
The other four percent — those with more than 50 workers — will be required to provide health insurance or be fined up to $2,000 per employee. (The SBA also estimates that 96 percent of those with more than 50 employees already do provide health insurance.)
And if the law is upheld, all small employers will be impacted in 2014 when businesses with fewer than 100 employees will be eligible to enter so-called “SHOP” insurance exchanges in which they can band together with other small companies and, theoretically, negotiate lower rates for their plans.